Ah, hello! Ahead of reading about ‘Easy Fantastic’, why not stream the record, using this handy player. We know, we know – ‘the Internet’, eh? Whatever will it do next…
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That Tom Williams & The Boat are students of, if you’ll forgive the hoary old cliché, ‘the golden age of rock’ is blindingly obvious, but the deployment of such influences is gently endearing rather than wearingly predictable.
The standout, chart-friendly vintage rock of ‘All Day’, replete with falsetto back-ups, may grab all of the attention, but it’s Williams’ often painfully blunt lyrics that make ‘Easy Fantastic’ worthy of multiple visits.
Take ‘25’, the album’s most claustrophobically malevolent track, which hinges on the curiously fatigued line, “25 and still alive and I ain’t finished yet”.
The vivid narratives are the band’s great strength, but the melodies aren’t far behind.
7/10 (scoring explained)
Words: Gareth James
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Still here? Great! Here’s a wonderful track-by-track guide to this album by Mr Tom Williams himself. Smashing…
“'Hurricane' was a relative late-comer to the party, recorded in the second of the two album sessions. It was the first track that we had done that seemed to encapsulate everything we wanted the new record to be. Riff heavy, with a great groove and a subterranean approach to lyric writing that we felt was important, as an antidote to the introverted self-obsession of the last record. The riff reminded us of early Led Zep, and with the Hammond organ on the chorus, the song introduces a new sound and classic feel for the band.”
‘All Day’ (video above)
“Written in a rain-swept farmhouse in the middle of France in late June, this was the most divisive song on the album and the one we struggled the most with in the studio. Nobody – the band, management, friends, family, or producer – could decide on whether it was a stinker or a classic pop song. In the end, the band agreed to cut it, and once the drum sample and the gospel singers Tobi and Michelle were added, the song came into its own. I feel it’s part of a lineage of more pop-obsessed writing that runs through our last two records, starting with ‘90mph’ and ‘Too Young’. ‘All Day’ is perhaps my favourite song on the album – it’s the sound of the band pushing ourselves to do something we’ve never done before. A huge thanks should definitely be given to Ian Grimble, our producer on this album, who wrestled this one into shape.”
The first of the co-writes on the album between me and Ant, who plays guitar in the band. The lyric was written all in one go, and the song started out as verse only, with the chorus being added later. We recorded the song in two halves with two separate drum kits, a dry kit on the verse and a more open-sounding kit on the chorus. Verse four is a particular highlight for me, sounding like a Blockheads meets The Strokes type situation. Our band has never sounded like that before.”
“Written home alone while babysitting a new puppy called Rufus. I remember recording the demo with him sitting on my feet, gently chewing on the mic cable. I knew I had to get this recorded quickly before disaster struck. For me, this song is when the album first settles into a groove. The first three tracks are all pretty full on, but when the strings come in for the first time, it’s a bit of a moment. The strings were recorded in my front room with Tim, who played violin on this record. The synth bed was influenced by our adoration of ‘Philadelphia’ by Bruce Springsteen – my first memory of The Boss in a childhood raised on a strict diet of ‘Born In The USA’. I’m still figuring out what this song means: ‘I'm a fox through bins consumed / I’m a burglar alarm at night.’ I know I felt that way at the time, but I'm still unsure what it all means.”
“'25' is a classic Tom Williams & The Boat song, in the vein of previous live favourites ‘See My Evil’ and ‘Get Older’. The second co-write on the record, again with Ant. I remember I had the lyrics finished before I turned up, and Ant had the riff written on a newly acquired 1943 Gibson J-45. The song wrote itself and was finished in 20 minutes. We kept the feedback at the end to serve as a side break for those not listening to the record on the much-preferred vinyl format. The Hollywood string build at the end was in the middle of being recorded when my sister phoned me to tell me she was engaged. As you can imagine, that was a particularly intense time and I freaked out. I had to later apologise and the wedding was great, thank god.”
“We see Suzanne as the beginning to Side Two of the album. The chugging riff reminded Ian (Grimble, producer) of Ronson-era Bowie, and the amped fiddle and Jerry Lee right-hand barroom piano of Band Of Horses or some smoky Midwest bar band playing to no one. Both the songs ‘Caroline’ and ‘Suzanne’, names of my aunties, were attempts to re-imagine both women as vivacious young heart-breakers, the romantic notion of the woman that every man chases only to be left broken and alone taken directly from my love of Dylan’s break up songs: ‘Don't Think Twice, It’s All Right’, the last verse of ‘Desolation Row’ and ‘Mama, You Been On My Mind’.”
“The fastest song on the record, and the tipping point in the album for me. This is the band at its fastest, the words at their most surreal, and then there’s the bizarre CSN breakdown in three-part harmony which we’ve also never done before. I made a particular effort here to be a slave to the rhyme, while writing as fast as possible. I particularly love the line, ‘And when morning sickness hit with a thud / And the sky flashed black like a bowl of blood’.
‘I Want You’
“The last co-write on the record, and the end of a four-song solid run through the middle of the album. Recorded on the first day of the second session, after a particularly disastrous morning of recording to a click track. We had lunch and played all afternoon, we got this in about the third or fourth take I think. The descending chord sequence is particularly enjoyable, as it reflects mine and Ant’s love of Teenage Fanclub. Ant gave me ‘Bandwagonesque’ about three years ago on vinyl for a birthday present, and it’s been one of my favourite records ever since. It’s the longest song on the album, and one of favourites to play live.”
‘Change Of Heart’
“This song originally started life as a home recording with a drum loop behind it, influenced by Jeff Lynne and ELO. It was also another chance to get the Hammond out, and have Tobi and Michelle add more amazing backing vocals to the affair. This song is an unashamed nod to our heroes including Tom Petty, the Traveling Wilburys and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel.”
“This was written as part of a songwriting workshop I was leading at the time. The brief I had given my students was to only use three chords in the whole song, and only one in the verse. The vocal melody was influenced by Father John Misty and his hugely inspiring ‘Fear Fun’ album. These last two songs on the album have some of my favourite playing by the band on them thus far in our career.”
‘Everything Will Change’
“This began as an acoustic protest song. The band halved the speed of it, and made it a natural end to the album, a rolling credits. For me this song is a love letter to my band. It’s not easy to be in the same band for seven years, release five EPs and three albums. But we’re a band of brothers, in it for the long haul.
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Band photo: Mike Massaro